Counsellingkit.com has developed a double resource that promotes the use of writing as part of the therapeutic process, a therapeutic journal called ‘Running Away’ and a teaching and learning edition called ‘Running Away + Workbook’. See below for a TASTER of both; they are free of charge whilst we redevelop our website and complete additional content!
‘Running Away’ – the Therapeutic Journal is an example of a journal kept as part of counselling. It centres on the character Max who seems to be running away from his life. Everything around him feels random and renders him powerless, adrift in his own life.
‘Running Away’ – the Therapeutic Journal + Workbook is a double resource containing the therapeutic journal plus a collection of 105 exercises:
- Each chapter is followed by a summary of events, an overriding theme and an example of possible dialogue, as if Max, the central character of ‘Running Away’, were your client. This dialogue lends itself to a script for role play.
- Each chapter’s set of notes is short and designed to give pointers to understanding.
- Each chapter has a theme. Do you agree with the choice of themes?
- There are notes of main events covered by each chapter and key ideas.
- Each chapter could be a starting point for discussion: What would happen if? What approach would you take if Max were your client? Are there signs of Max emerging from his painful life evident to you?
- If you keep a therapeutic journal, can you pull out of your own writing themes and pointers?
- As a trainer of counsellors, you could give individuals in a group one chapter each to read and then the group could tell Max’s story as a group activity. Particular emphasis can be given to thoughts and feelings running through each chapter.
- I use the phrase ‘reflective writing’, by this I mean personal writing where the client reflects on his life, e.g. past and present, thoughts, feelings and actions, how he arrived where he is now and what he can do to change things.
Max’s Journal – Excerpt
Born in Switzerland
Lives in England
‘I hear voices. They seem to know me better than I do. My means of escape is to write down what they say and what happens.’
1. Having set ideas
2. Introducing ‘reflective writing’ as an integral part of counselling.
Max comes to his first session with you as his counsellor. He reads out the list he’s written at the beginning of his journal. He almost challenges you with his statement ‘I hear voices’. You encourage Max to choose a few sentences further on in his journal to read aloud.
You observe that when Max is reading he adopts a straighter posture in his chair.
‘He saw her face, with that look she saved just for him. It made him jump out of bed. He fought for the light. He had to see.’
Possible dialogue with counsellor:
Max: ‘I hear voices, did they tell you that? Most of them are from my life, well from my past life, not like a ‘past life’, just the life that passes me by.’ (He laughs)
Counsellor: ‘Talk to me about ‘that look she saved just for him’.’
Max: ‘Hard to describe, like she could see me, like she could see through me. I haven’t told you yet, I’m invisible to most people.’
Counsellor: ‘What exactly happens when you experience yourself as invisible to most people?’
Max: ‘Look, I’ve written down what happened to me or maybe what I felt about was happening to me, I don’t know, when are we going to start proper counselling?’
Counsellor: ‘Proper counselling?’
Max: ‘You know when you tell me how I can put these voices in my head to bed.’
Possible approaches from this taster of ‘Running Away’.
- Get trainee counsellors to listen to Max’s list again and write down a first impression of that as a summary of his life. How did it make them feel about Max? (For example, did they feel Max had a genuine problem or did they think he was trying to impress?) What would the first thing be they would say to him?
- Max will be watching his counsellor intently for a reaction to his statement of ‘I hear voices’. What would a good receptive posture look like?